Broadway Theatre in the New Year
By Lenora Kay
[bra_dropcaps style=”dropcap1″]T[/bra_dropcaps]he New Year finds the Great White Way open, quite literally, for new material, as a number of Broadway shows take their final bows by late January. Despite the fact that Broadway will be on the emptier side in early 2013, there are new plays and musicals to both get excited about and nervous for as the season races towards the theatrical apex known as the Tony Awards.
One apparent trend in 2013 is that of the family style ‘spinoff,’ the crowd-pleasing show that refreshes or retells beloved stories. Theatergoers should be excited for blockbuster musicals such as Matilda and Cinderella, productions that use familiar content yet are newly conceived. Matilda, which has already proven to be popularly successful in London, rethinks Roald Dahl’s children’s story about a girl with special powers. Similarly, Cinderella, based on the classic Rogers and Hammerstein’s made for television movie and well-known fairy tale, is being staged for the first time. Both share the advantage of having an already built in audience as well as the risk of failing to do justice to previously adored tales.
Similarly, new musicals such as Hands on a Hardbody and Kinky Boots bank on familiarity, this time of being linked to famous musical artists. Kinky Boots, with a score co-written by Cindy Lauper and Harvey Feirstein, is based on a comedy film of the same name. Also based on a film, Hands on a Hardbody is a musical based on a documentary about 24 contestants attempting to win a Nissan hardbody truck. Hands on a Hardbody comes to Broadway with an atypical score partially written by a member of Phish. Both of these musicals, perhaps hoping to become the next Jersey Boys or Mamma Mia, attempt to utilize the talent and fame of certain artists in order to convince non-traditional audiences to attend the theater. The question remains whether the music of these pop-icons is translatable to the stage.
Celebrity appearances make their way into 2013 as well, with Scarlett Johanson headlining Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Alec Baldwin appearing in Orphans, and Nathan Lane performing in The Nance. All three actors have immense star power on and off the stage, yet the recent appearance of Katie Holmes in Dead Accounts proves that star power is not necessarily enough to guarantee an audience.
Perhaps most risky and most interesting will be the film inspired productions of 2013. Often ill conceived, Broadway plays and musicals based on blockbuster hits can either thrill or greatly disappoint audiences. Flashdance, Big Fish, a Few Good Men, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Ever After are just some of the Broadway productions hoping to capitalize on the box office prowess of popular films. It will be fascinating to witness whether any will succeed in re-imagining these productions in a way that is appropriate and appealing enough to convert a typical American into a theatergoer.
While these productions are only a handful of those gracing the stage in the coming year, it is evident that 2013 will be a year of old favorites, new spin offs and premier productions, all hoping to become the next Book of Mormon. Although it is hard to predict whether any of these newcomers will accomplish this goal, it is clear that the season will be an interesting one to say the least.